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A strong business turnaround requires creating a plan your creditors will use; then, you must prioritize whose debts you will pay. It is your responsibility to apprise your creditors of your business turnaround plan and company forecasts so they can extend loans, grant more, or even forfeit some of the debts.

Be Forthcoming with Creditors
The goal of creditors is simply to make back their investments in some form, and they understand that this objective may not be reached should you be overly burdened with their debts. If you provide current updates on your business turnaround plan and methods for turning your company around, then they will be more apt to help you on your way or at least alleviate some of your burdens. Business turnaround plans often depend on creditor concessions.

For your business to become profitable, your creditors may have to make certain concessions and financial sacrifices or else their investment may go sour. However, you must look at the situation from their perspective. If they don’t receive any information about your company’s financial well being, forecasts and benefits of turnaround plans, then they may not put their full trust in you and they may refuse these concessions. That is why an open and honest relationship with your creditors is so key, which your business turnaround plan should note.

Show your books. Prove how extending certain loans or forgoing some debts will result in their receiving back their investment. Keep them regularly updated. Make your own concessions in order to appease your creditors. A business turnaround depends on this open and trusting relationship – it is very unlikely that you will achieve financial success otherwise.

Prioritize your Creditors
That is not to say that all creditors are the same. The reality of business turnaround plans is that you will have to prioritize your creditors and sort out which ones are important to your business. If they don’t like your business turnaround plan, then everyone loses; thus, your business turnaround plan will require that you choose which creditors get paid and which will not.

You must separate creditors into two groups, the former of which include individuals and companies integral to your business. Those are the people you need to impress, to share your plan with, and to have an honest relationship. You should personally meet with these specific creditors and sell them your business turnaround plan. Be honest and show them how they will be repaid.

The people and firms in the second group, however, are simply not a priority and you should make every attempt to get out of those debts – hiring a debt negotiator is a common practice for such situations. It is very important that you separate these firms and people into the two groups, and you must act carefully. Before you potentially end a relationship with a creditor whose business isn’t essential and thus whose loan isn’t a priority, you must be absolutely sure that you can negotiate a good settlement.

Keep the Goal in Mind
The goal is redeveloping your business so your company becomes profitable again. Additionally, most firms price in the chance of their debts being vitiated; in other words, this is a practice that companies understand, expect, and factor in with their prices.

Thayne Carper spent 4 years of college competing in student business plan competitions. He’s never won a business plan competition and was ultimately dropped from his college’s entrepreneurial program for lacking potential. Today, he is one of the youngest published experts on the topic of business turnarounds and cost reduction.

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In all business turnaround situations there are certain steps that are commonly taken to change the fortunes of a failing business.

The owner of a less than successful business may require professional expert help to arrest the business demise and to create value for the organization. The task of managing the required change may be beyond the owner’s skill set or too much emotional sentiment may exist that may preclude the owner from taking the tough ‚business saving decisions‘.

Is there a standard process to be adopted in business turnarounds?

All business situations are different and, therefore, merit different approaches and emphasis on different aspects of the work. However, there are some steps that are generally considered in many successful business turnaround situations and ten of the most relevant are given below:

1. Review and Assess the Present Situation
In a business turnaround it is important to understand fully the starting position. It will be important to gather objective and anecdotal data in order to review the situation and to determine the causes, as well as to comprehend the immediate effects, of the issues impacting the business.

Management accounts, the sales order book, financial arrangements, internal controls, customer service levels, quality and leadership skills are typical areas that will require evaluation and a view taken on.

2. Develop Plans and Business Strategy
After assessing what is required to be changed for the business turnaround to be successful, it will be necessary to develop robust plans and strategy that will achieve success.

Without doubt it will be necessary to comprehensively document the actions to be taken, the timings, the financial impact of those actions and to obtain ‚buy-in‘ from the business owner.

The benefits of writing the business plan include that of a reference against which actual results can be measured and an indication to third parties that the proposed business turnaround plan has been carefully evaluated and is a viable proposition that should be supported. This will be an important and relevant form of communication to investors, staff and others who may need to know what the businesses future plans are.


3. Communicate With Key Employees
For the business turnaround to gain momentum it will be necessary to meet with managers and key personnel. The current business affairs should be explained and the consequences of not taking corrective action should be made known. An outline of the proposed actions to be taken should also be communicated and a request for comments should be sought.

Whilst it may not be possible to answer detailed questions it will be important to elicit the concerns of this group and address them as positively as possible.

Members of this group will critical to the success of the business turnaround. They will be charged with taking the planned actions and delivering the results; consequently it will be imperative that the group act as a team and are committed to the future plans.


4. Communicate With Other Employees
It will be necessary at the earliest opportunity to meet with all employees or their union representatives, particularly if job losses are planned.

A prolonged period of uncertainty, fuelled by rumour and counter rumour, will not be beneficial to the business and whilst bad news may not be easy to deliver, the communication of it in a timely sensitive manner is desirable.

The meeting will also be the opportunity to provide an insight into the future business plans and the part the remaining employees will play.

5. Meet the Bank
The bank and other parties with a financial investment in the business should be advised of the business turnaround plans. If possible meetings should be arranged to discuss the plans and to seek assurances of continued, and maybe, more support for the business.

6. Meet Customers
Dependent upon the severity of the situation within the business it may be necessary to reassure key customers of the business turnaround plans and the benefits that will accrue for them.

This action should be considered mandatory if the cause of the business demise has been poor customer service, poor quality product or any other matter not meeting the expected/agreed customer satisfaction levels.

Begging for a second, third or even fourth chance to ‚get things right‘ may be embarrassing but remember: no customers – no business. Learn from past mistakes, do not promise what cannot be delivered and ensure internal systems, processes and communication channels are raised to a standard that will seamlessly allow business to be conducted in a timely and efficient manner.


7. Meet Suppliers
If the business has failed to settle payable accounts on time, even the murmur of business turnaround activity taking place may result in suppliers imposing draconian payment terms that may jeopardize the business turnaround recovery plan.

If support for the turnaround plan has been gained from the financial institutions and investors, it will be advisable to actively seek meetings with vendors to outline the plans and to seek their continued support.

Re-establishing trust will be critical. Negotiating new or even the continuation of existing, payment terms from a weak position will be difficult, however, all promises made should be honoured or if failure is imminent inform the vendor in advance of how any debt will be discharged.

8. Conserve Cash
Review and improve if necessary the credit management procedures. If possible negotiate extended payment terms to suppliers; examine thoroughly all unused assets of the business and liquidate if necessary.

Options that may be available include selling unused buildings, renting out spare office space, selling unused plant and office equipment, disposing of excess or redundant stocks, factor sales debt and if unavoidable make excess employees redundant.

In addition the elimination of all unnecessary overhead cost should also be actioned.

9. Implement New/Update Systems and Procedures
A thorough review of existing systems and procedures will be required to meet the goals of the business turnaround plan. Implement change if necessary; it will be noteworthy to recall that a continuation of old practices will almost certainly result in the same old results.

Positive and profitable change may be required and this should be communicated to employees, so that they understand their roles in the new business environment.

10. Monitor, Measure and Take Action
Throughout the business turnaround process, results should be regularly measured against plan and corrective actions taken if required. Key performance indicators (KPI) should be determined that will give a snapshot of the business performance and be available on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

The KPIs should include financial and non-financial measures and reflect the important aspects of the business that will determine success or failure.

Finally it will be desirable to pro-actively communicate the turnaround progress to all interested parties – employees, customers, suppliers as well as the financial institutions.

Provided sound business management principles are employed, results measured and positive trends reported, control of the business should be re-established. However, the business turnaround work should not be considered as a one-off. The experienced gained during the turnaround process should be adopted to avoid a repetition of the earlier mistakes made.

David Willetts is a qualified accountant (FCMA) and works through DAW Consulting [http://www.dawconsulting.co.uk] providing specialist financial and management support to business owners. Part time finance director, mentor, business consultant, NED and financial management consultant are typical roles undertaken to help owners take control of and plan their business whether in start up, growth or exit phase. Learn more of how DAW Consulting [http://www.dawconsulting.co.uk] can help your business.